The Vegan Food Service Community Is Still There for Plant-Based Eaters

The Vegan Food Service Community Is Still There for Plant-Based Eaters
The Bumbling Bee
Until just the past week, vegan fare had been getting easier and easier to find in metro Denver, as plant-based menus have been springing up at new restaurants, food trucks, markets and pop-up dinners all over town. But the March 16 announcement by the State of Colorado that all bars and restaurants were close to in-house customers for thirty days made it tough for vegans to find their favorite dishes. Some restaurant owners have taken the utmost caution to protect themselves, their employees and their guests by closing completely, while others are doing what they can to keep feeding customers with takeout, curbside pick-up and delivery options.

Meta Burger, which was recently recognized as having the best vegan burger in the world, announced on March 16 that it would close completely. “We believe that in this time of uncertainty, being open in any facet could be risking the lives and health of many people, which is more important than the health of our business. We look forward to reopening when the time is right,” co-owner Matthew Coates said in a Facebook post. “Currently, we are working every angle surrounding delivery, to-go and pick-up to open our doors for loyal customers during this time, and we plan to keep everyone updated through social media."

Squeaky Little Wheel, which sells plant-based doughnuts and doughnut mixes, has put delivery on pause but is still offering curbside pick-up for fresh doughnuts and shipping for mixes.Owner Shannon Lovelace-White says she is currently offering free shipping and a sale on doughnut mixes (buy two, get one free). She says buying the mixes online are a great no-contact method, and points out that making doughnuts is a fun activity to do at home.

“I did a large production round in February, so all doughnut mixes were produced prior to the appearance of the virus in Colorado. For pickup, all orders are brought out to the customers in their cars,” Lovelace-White says.

Cassandra Ayla, owner of The Bumbling Bee in Boulder, just opened her restaurant a few months ago and is feeling the strain of required closures. “The vegan community has supported us and embraced us. I know together as a community we can survive,” she notes.

Currently, the Bumbling Bee is open for delivery and takeout (see updates on the restaurant's website), and Ayla says she is slashing prices to help everyone impacted by the coronavirus crisis, explaining that “we will be limiting our menus based on supplies we can locate. Menus will be amazing, I promise, but being vegan makes it that much harder to source the products and volume we need on a daily basis to make the magic happen.”

Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant, at 1710 Pearl Street in Boulder, announced on Facebook that its kitchen is open for takeout, and the bar is selling beer and wine to go, since Governor Jared Polis relaxed regulations on alcohol sales earlier this week. But on March 16, Three Leaf Concepts, which owns Leaf as well as several other restaurants, a farm, a catering company and a tea business in Boulder County, had to lay off 300 employees, according to a message from co-owner Lenny Martinelli on a GoFundMe page for employees.

Nooch Vegan Market, at 10 East Ellsworth Avenue, is still open, but with limited hours (from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily) and with a pantry-style system where customers can order at the front door and the staff will collect and bag their order. See Nooch's Facebook page for all the details, which include accepting EBT SNAP payments.

Denver's vegan community is resilient and creative, and many other restaurants and food businesses are finding ways to serve food during a difficult time. Check the websites and social-media pages of your favorites to keep up with the changes. 
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Kristen Kuchar is a Colorado writer covering craft beer, food and travel. For Westword, she explores vegan dining and the state's artisan beverages, such as cider and mead.